The story of the Virginia Creeper Trail is the tale of an idea that gripped two small-town doctors and a local lawmaker—and then simply wouldn’t let go.The rail line that was once the highest elevation passenger service train east of the Rockies made its last run in 1977.A place where the loudest sound you’ll hear for miles is the thud-thud of your bike tires across the planks of towering wooden trestles.
The trail is a beloved regional asset and economic boon that once ignited fierce opposition from neighboring landowners.A relic of the railroad age, it came within a pen stroke of simply vanishing into the forest.It took another six years to restore the wooden trestles, an effort that was interrupted in 1985 when one of the 450-foot bridges burned down in a mysterious fire.Finally, in 1987, the long-awaited 34 miles of converted rail line opened to the public as a shared-use hiking, biking and equine recreational trail.Today the sleepy towns of Abingdon and Damascus welcome about 250,000 trail riders a year, more than 25 times their combined populations.
The trail is an economic engine for the communities, generating business for bike shuttle services, rental cottages, restaurants and shops.
For these young adults who come annually for family reunions, Southwest Virginia’s 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail (VCT) is timeless.
It’s a place, they’ve discovered, where cell phones serve no purpose and where horses share the path.
The Norfolk & Western Railway’s Abingdon line, dating back to the late 1800s, transported timber from the old-growth forest on Whitetop Mountain to a Damascus, Va., lumber mill.
The line became known as “The Virginia Creeper” because of the train’s creeping pace up and down steep mountain grades.
There are festivals, concerts and special events all year long in Abingdon.